SALT LAKE CITY — A client said to me, “I was doing great. I was on program, and then I ate a cupcake. I felt so guilty I spiraled out of control. I’m angry with myself because I let it all go.”

If I only had a nickel for all the clients who, in a disgusted tone of voice, “confessed” they had fallen off the “diet wagon.” It may not have been a cupcake that sent them butt over bandbox off the wagon, but whatever the illicit, forbidden food, it made them feel bad enough to give up. As if they had failed themselves.

Psychology calls this kind of guilt (failed expectations of self) neurotic guilt. Since research tells us that 65 percent of us are overweight, that’s a whole lot of guilt and anxiety floating around.

In an interview for this column, Steven Kalas Ph.D., MFT explained it this way: “Neurotic guilt makes you feel stuck, when what you need most is life-giving initiative.”

He went on to explain that guilt can bring anxiety, an endless loop tape in your head: “I shouldn’t have eaten that, I shouldn’t have eaten that, I shouldn’t have …” This type of anxiety is paralyzing. It prevents us from trying again.

Giving up is the saddest part of the story. Sometimes the greatest expression of power is not the big guy groaning while lifting heavy weights in the gym, it’s the quiet thought inside of us that says, “I’ll try again.”

Our bodies are in a perpetual state of recovery and healing. When we eat well, exercise and maintain a calm, content disposition, we are thriving. But in the day-to-day of it all, life isn’t perfect. There will be bumps along the way. How we deal with the bumps determines whether or not we can manage our weight.

Guilt comes when we violate our personal eating standards, such as, “Never eat this (sugar, chocolate, soda, etc.) and never do that (consume too much, eat late at night, miss a workout etc.)." This “do or die” mentality is destructive. The pressure is too great, the risk of failure too high. It’s just overwhelming.

I suggest to my clients to break the day into thirds: morning, afternoon, evening. Make a list of what a really good morning would look like for that day of the week. The list may include:

  • Upon rising, count your blessings
  • Drink a glass of water before breakfast
  • Eat something fresh and in season or make fresh juice
  • Have a cup of herb tea
  • Have a handful of almonds
  • Go for a 30 minute walk (or the gym)

For the morning up until noon, check as many boxes as you can, mentally or on paper. Then step back and say, "That was pretty good. I did most or all of what I intended."

Have a similar list for afternoon. You may have on your list:

  • Eat a salad for lunch
  • Refuse the bread that comes with it
  • Avoid the coworker who makes you feel bad about yourself
  • Meditate for 10 minutes
  • Drink two glasses of water
  • Have a planned, low-calorie, nutritious snack

For the afternoon up until 5 p.m., check as many of the boxes as you can. Take a moment to feel really good about your efforts. Take a deep breath, step back and remember, this is a process.

Your evening list might have:

  • Reduce portions at dinner
  • Include steamed vegetables with dinner (add super foods when you can)
  • Say no to sugar
  • Stop eating after 7 p.m.
  • Get to bed on time

When you check in at the close of each “third” of the day, focus on just that section of the day. Remind yourself that your body is an amazing, intelligent network and is getting better. Keep in mind, weight loss is a process, and perfection would be too much to ask. When you blow it, try to understand the feelings that went along with the off-program food and where those feelings come from.

The next third is another chance to stay on track. We’re looking for a trend rather than an instant result. The longer you can keep the thirds looking pretty good, the easier it gets.

Forget about being on a diet; feel enjoyment in your life and gratitude for the chance to slim down and care for yourself. When you marvel at the gift your body is and find gratitude for all the systems that keep you up and running every day, guilt — or, anger turned inward — slips slowly away.

I’ll see you soon.

Love & health,


For more information on guilt, I like this piece :